Our thanks go to Terry Clarke, who was a Scout in the 1960s, for sending us his treasured memories of Wesley Hall.
My experiences of Wesley Hall came via membership of the 27th Woolwich Scouts. After being thrown out of the 10th Woolwich Cubs for fighting with the vicar’s son, I was shown that Scouting still had a lot to offer me and this could be had via the 27th. This was in 1961 and the decade that followed proved to be the most rewarding time of my life.
Scouts was every Friday evening and after learning our scout craft, implanting massive splinters into our arms and legs by playing British Bulldog or some other murderous type of activity (these were the days when Health and Safety were just two words in the dictionary), our friendships were cemented with fish and chips (and yes, they were out of proper newspaper) on the way home. As time passed, we moved into the Senior Scouts and spent our Fridays in the “den” acting as guinea pigs for some of Brian’s experimental “foodstuff” he had brought home from work – only one or two of us actually grew two heads but some others did develop some very strange behaviours.
Solid friendships were formed during that time, friendships that have survived until today, five decades later.
Alas, there came a time when we grew too old for the Scouts but separation from Wesley Hall still proved difficult and our Friday evening rituals turned into a weekly gathering at the local pub – “The Who’d a Thought it”. These gatherings grew; we discovered girls (most of whom were Girl Guides at Wesley Hall – the 6th Plumstead Common) and romances blossomed. Gradually these weekly gatherings diminished as couples paired off and started families. I must say, and I do think this is generally understood, Wesley Hall and all that it meant was never far from my mind.
The next 20 – 25 years saw sporadic gatherings of the group although some did settle into permanent roles at Wesley Hall. Generally, though, if assistance or attendance was required at Wesley Hall, then it was usually and readily provided.
Wesley Hall has been a focus for thousands of people since it was built. No building on its own can create a union of friends – it takes people with will to do that. It can, however, provide the environment for that will to prosper. The strength of that will has been demonstrated many times over the years with Wesley hall as its enabler.
Most recently, we had two members of our particular group embark on a highly personal journey in support of charities that have deep significance to them. They decided that they would do a sponsored walk along parts of the Great Wall of China. Facebook came alive with requests for help in achieving sponsorship goals necessary to enable participation in the trek.
There started a period of pure magic. Fundraising events were held over a period of about 8 months. Suddenly most of the original group from the 1960s and 70s appeared on the scene along with a host of others. Financial targets were met and exceeded very quickly. Old friendships were rekindled and enhanced. It was a remarkable time and the intention is to carry this on.
It was at a recent gathering that the gift of friendship that originated from Wesley Hall half a century ago came, for me, into its sharpest focus. The sight of children playing and laughing – the grand sons and grand daughters of that group of friends who came together at Wesley Hall in the 1960s. Still friends, still sharing and laughing, still living the same values we developed then.